Apple's Efforts to Automate iPhone Assembly Detailed in New Report

The Information today reported that shortly after COVID-19-related lockdowns and protests in China impacted iPhone assembler Foxconn in late 2022, Apple's senior vice president of operations Sabih Khan instructed managers to reduce the number of workers on iPhone assembly lines by as much as 50% over the following few years.

iPhone Assembly
To achieve this goal, Apple allegedly began approving high-cost automation projects for iPhone assembly that it previously shied away from. The report claims these efforts resulted in a "significant amount" of automation being involved for iPhone 15 production, but automation has still posed challenges for Apple due to manufacturing complexities.

For example, the report claims that Apple had to cancel some automation processes for the iPhone 16 series due to a "high rate of defects":

This year, Apple sought to build on some of its automation successes by using machines to install the iPhone's buttons, receiver, speaker and main logic board into its chassis, according to three people who worked in Apple's supply chain. But the machines stumbled in properly fastening those components, which have to be carefully screwed into position at odd angles, the people said.

Apple's push for automation could allow it to move even more iPhone assembly to countries outside of China, such as India, Vietnam, and Thailand, as part of the company's efforts to diversify its supply chain in Southeast Asia.

More details can be found in The Information's report.

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Top Rated Comments

turbineseaplane Avatar
3 weeks ago
When I see a facial reaction like this on a YT thumbnail, I don't click through

Attachment Image
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThunderSkunk Avatar
3 weeks ago

it already costs them like 20 bucks to make an iphone. how much more profit do they really need?
Infinite. When I was 16 I had a flat tire on my bike and being out in the country, I thumbed it & got picked up by Dick Burke, president of Intrepid Corp, which owned Trek bicycle co. I told him how impressed I was about how Trek became the biggest blah blah blah. Instead of accepting my flattery he explained how a company can get "too big", at which point the business starts to look like a big money funnel, and attracts the most unethical kind of shortsighted businesspeople who think the entire point of a company is anything for a buck, consuming everything in sight if it makes the owners one extra cent. They'll screw up your product lines and long term plans, cut costs on materials until your product QA goes to hell, replace all the human beings with machines, jack up the prices, and use all the $ to overpay the top brass, attracting the "owner class" to gamble their kids college money on your ability to do it again indefinitely. Dicks idea was that a business equally serves the customers as it does the employees. The point of a good business is to provide the most possible good for the most possible people, so the happier your customers are, the more people you can hire and pay well, and the better that company is doing. I can't imagine anyone having the guts to say the words "shareholder profits" to him while he was alive.

I went on to work for him for a few years before he had to retire and finally passed away. I got a detailed look at how dysfunctional corporate culture can get before the company became unrecognizable. Today, about 5min across from where I teach product design is the business school, preaching the heirarchical, unlimited power/wealth, infinite growth model to a new class of kids every 4 months with religious fervor. Enjoy it while it lasts I guess.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dumastudetto Avatar
3 weeks ago

You couldn’t replace “Apple” with just about any company.
Once everyone is out of work, they won't be needing these massively complex production facilities. The customer base will be shrinking down by a lot. Everyone racing to automate and eliminate jobs seems to be forgetting they need customers with money to consume whatever they are producing.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bradman83 Avatar
3 weeks ago

This is probably Apple insulating itself against the possibility of having to exit China in a tariff war. Robotic assembly is one way to bring iPhone assembly to the United States. With American cost of living and wage expectations and unions, we’d be paying double or more for an iPhone. Cut the required number of workers by half and it suddenly starts to make sense.
Steve Jobs said in an interview before he died that iPhone production would never move to the US but the cost of assembly labor was not the main issue. Apple, at the time of the interview, needed about 50,000 associate-level industrial engineers to solve manufacturing issues. China is very good at churning out armies of associate degree level engineers in a way that the US just doesn’t. That was what Jobs cited as the biggest barrier to US manufacturing.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
now i see it Avatar
3 weeks ago
Automated robotic assembly doesn’t require suicide nets
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
picpicmac Avatar
4 weeks ago

Apple is a $2 trillion dollar company
Why do you think market valuation of a company's equities is important in these matters?

When it comes to manufacturing the costs are constrained by cash flow.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)